There are disasters, destructions and deaths all around the world and we remain vulnerable to the forces of Nature that unleashes its might with hitherto unknown fury and ferocity.
Floods, famines, fires, cyclones, tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis challenge the right of the planet Earth to exist, as its inhabitants catch fright and take flight to secure their lives away from the wrath of Nature.
Nature’s love and its fury do not always work in concert but they do make us aware that there is someone Supreme who rules with might, majesty, power and compassion that remains His right to exercise, as He deems fit.
New Zealand rests on the earthquake fault line and was formed through volcanic activity thousands of years ago.
The Auckland volcanic cones are the visible reminders of intense activity that eventually shaped a nation. Today, we climb those cones to see the vista below, unaware that they were formed by lava that spewed from the adjoining gaping craters.
The silent craters bear history of its violent past but there is no guarantee they will remain silent forever. The arterial connection of the fault line keeps the ground intact.
It is a line with sections lying dormant for thousands of years but they may not remain so forever. Activation of one could ignite another and contribute to a chain reaction.
Essentially, we live in hope, unable to discard the underlying despair.
We remain aware of the possibilities, prepared in mind to take evasive action but there is nothing that we can do to prevent its occurrence.
The Civil Defense Force has always stressed and amplified the importance of keeping the Emergency Kit in every home but very few of us have taken heed, ignoring the advice and dismissing the occurrence of disasters.
The tsunami of December 2004 that devastated coastlines of Indonesia and India, reaching the coasts of Africa, killed over 250,000 people. Many were drawn to it, fascinated by the wall of water rushing towards the land. Some clicked their cameras to capture a rare event, instead of running for their lives, and perished.
It left in its trail, death, destruction and devastation and realisation of our vulnerability against Nature’s might.
Living in so-called God Zone, we often delude ourselves that we are secure and therefore, remain as spectators, sympathisers or contributors of aid to those who suffer from such calamities.
The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch on September 4, 2010, has awakened New Zealanders and reminded them that they are not exempt from such natural disasters.
Tragically, we are lashed by hurricanes, cyclones, fires and tsunamis on land, while the land below is not lacking in activity.
It has long been established that there is a belt of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean and New Zealand lies within this zone, identified as the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is 40,000 km long. Shaped like a horseshoe, it ‘rings’ the Pacific Ocean and includes the western coasts of North and South America. It has 452 volcanoes and is home to 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes.
Scientists believe that the belts of volcanoes within the Pacific Ring of Fire are activated by subduction that occurs around the edge of the Pacific tectonic plate.
The Christchurch Earthquake turned some historic buildings into rubble, while in residential areas old chimneys that remained as relics of the City’s spectacular past crumbled, knocking down roofs and buildings.
An earthquake of similar strength hit Haiti in January 2010 killing 230,000 people but surprisingly there were no deaths in Christchurch. The ‘miracle’ was attributed to the quality of buildings that were retrofitted not to crumble, as they did in Haiti.
However, if the earthquake had struck during the day, when people were out and about the Central Business District (CBD), serious injuries and deaths may have occurred.
The CBD was worst affected, damaging the central commercial area of Riccarton but few people live in these parts of the City.
In a way, time was an important factor that saved lives.
Since the first strike, tremors have continued, differing in strength but the impact of the earthquake on the people has been traumatic. Many will suffer the scars of the quake and some may never recover, as it is impossible to render assistance to everyone.
While the tremors continue, an air of uncertainty hangs over Christchurch, as people remain anxious and fearful.
Is the worst over?
No one can predict, but it is heartening to see the Government move swiftly to render assistance to the victims, galvanising the nation.
It was also heartening that the political parties closed ranks and supported the Government’s recovery plans, showing political maturity.
People from other parts of New Zealand share the pain and suffering of the Christchurch residents and have shown typical Kiwi generosity in giving assistance.
The great Kiwi spirit of kindness and compassion is a dominant feature of our people, which is rekindled in times of such calamities. The focus of the world is on us and it is a matter of pride that we have the resources, courage and capacity to look after ourselves.
Understandably, people in other parts of New Zealand are apprehensive but there is little that they can do, as no one can forewarn about earthquakes, as they do in forecasting natural disasters that happen on the surface of the earth.
However, what is of concern is the magnitude of natural disasters, which is becoming more and more powerful and destructive.
Is there an ominous warning behind the brute display of Nature’s wrath? Is the dreaded apocalypse near?
Such questions riot in our minds.
Our fancy in the Global Positioning System, tracking the movement of hurricanes, cyclones, floods and fires is justified but it is not good enough in tracking what is happening below the earth.
It is in tumult and the occasional rumble could turn in to a final roar, following which the disquiet on Earth may ultimately testify that there is no one left to share!
Our message to Christchurch residents: Our heartfelt sympathies and prayers are with you and we hope that restorative efforts quickly bring normalcy to your lives.
Rajendra Prasad is a thinker, author (Tears in Paradise) and Indian Newslink columnist. He lives in Auckand. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christchurch City Council Building Consent Officer Michael Nilsson (left) and University of Canterbury Civil Engineering Professor Dr Andy Buchanan prepare to red sticker shops in a block of the first buildings to be demolished on the corner of Bealey Avenue and Victoria Street, after the September 4 earthquake. NZPA Picture by David Wethey